Words by Danielle Dacres
After letting the melodic whispers of Beyoncé lead me up to heaven on “Pray You Catch Me,” I heard the menacing last line: “What are you doing my love?”
This question shook me to the core because it pushed me to acknowledge what I’d been trying to ignore. I was unhappy. Early in 2016, before “Lemonade” came out, I decided to take a semester off from college. My passion for writing had left me and the clear cut vision I once had for my future was beginning to blur.
Being black and a woman intensified these doubts. Even if I improved as a writer, there’d always be a wall to break through.
As I watched my friends push forward with various internships and job opportunities, my thirst for developing as a student and future professional dimmed.
It was when America broke out into political hives over Beyoncé’s “Formation” performance during the 2016 Super Bowl that I braced myself. I was sure “Lemonade” was to be a revolutionary album enveloped in black empowerment motifs with a synchronized female army.
But my expectations for “Lemonade” were pleasantly shattered upon its release — ‘cause the minute I saw Queen B barefaced in a simple black sweat suit shuffling through the middle of Timbuktu in the video for “Pray You Catch Me,” I knew it was so much more.
This was not the glamorized hit-maker I’d grown up with. Instead, she was my black mother, sister, friend.
This feeling of an untapped connection to a world-renowned superstar bewildered me because I, like much of the Beehive, had dehumanized Beyoncé into an untouchable goddess. I’d forgotten that although Beyoncé was adorned in money, fame and power, she endures her struggles as a black woman in America just like I do.
The vulnerability Beyoncé so easily conveys in “Pray You Catch Me” validated my feelings of fear and sadness — emotions that remain a stigmatized burden for women of color in both our personal lives and our constant fight for equality.
Likewise, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Sorry” let me simmer in the anger and resentment I’d spent so long suppressing to avoid being written off as another “angry black woman.”
On the other hand, “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles” lead me down the road of forgiveness. These tracks tapped into the freeness to be gained by letting my worries go.
Of course, the visuals of “Lemonade” had just as much of an impact on my soul as the melodies. Beyoncé swinging her wooden baseball bat in her yellow Roberto Cavalli dress in “Hold Up” filled me with a giddy vengeance for people in my past who took more than gave.
Serena Williams’ powerful booty-popping in “Sorry” and the fiery enticement of “6 Inch” emboldened me with the smoldering sexiness black women are often shamed for. Watching loving clips of the Carters spending time together as a family in “All Night” helped lulled my mind into a peaceful expectation for a better tomorrow.
But it was the riveting “Freedom” that would aid in pushing me past my state of unhappiness to a pumped-up phase of motivation. Listening to Beyoncé belt out “Freedom” amidst a group of unified black women in the grassy marshes of an old Mississippi plantation imbued me with a power that could only come from another black woman.
I felt my roots of survival blossom with the bravery and perseverance of my grandmother, mother, sister and aunts as I watched those who resembled them stare daringly into the face of the world. The boldness radiating off the stoic poses of the young, the old and in between lit up my inner fighting spirit. It reminded me that I deserved more.
Beyoncé spoke to black women on the premise of us being human. Our feelings of anger and resentment are just as valid as feelings of fear, sadness or vulnerability. None of these emotions makes us less empowered or deserving.
I’d become so paralyzed by my own self-doubt and inner conflict I suppressed my desires in fear of failure.
It was after a week of experiencing “Lemonade” on a loop that I decided to go back to school. I felt my unhappiness slowly began to slip away. In the months to follow, that sadness was replaced with a sense of drive. Although I still was not sure about my future, Beyoncé reminded me that nonetheless I deserved one.
As much lemonade as we make, we also must also remember that we deserve a seat at the table to drink it along with everyone else.
Danielle Dacres is a television, radio and film student at Syracuse University. For more Beyoncé stanning and pop culture commentary, follow her on Twitter via @DanielleDacres.